CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
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CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)

La Seine à Lavacourt

CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
La Seine à Lavacourt
oil on canvas
17 7⁄8 x 24 in. (45.4 x 61 cm.)
Painted in 1879
Richard Peabody, Boston.
Count Ivan N. Podgoursky, Boston.
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above).
Mrs. William Fitzhugh, San Francisco (acquired from the above, November 1939).
Marion E. Fitzhugh, New York (by descent from the above, 1960).
J. Perry Fitzhugh, Cape Neddick, Maine (by descent from the above); sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, 3 April 1968, lot 46.
Anon. sale, Drouot-Montaigne, Paris, 24 November 1988, lot 33.
Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 25 March 1994, lot 42.
Anon. sale, Millon & Associés, Paris, 19 March 2007, lot 22.
Private collection, Portugal (acquired at the above sale); sale, Sotheby's, London, 2 March 2017, lot 130.
Acquired at the above sale by Arnold and Anne Ulnick Gumowitz.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Supplément aux peintures, dessins, pastels, Lausanne, 1991, vol. V, p. 8, no. 2003-538bis (illustrated, p. 9).
D. Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, p. 211, no. 538a (illustrated in color).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Monet: Seasons and Moments, March-August 1960, no. 26 (titled The Seine at Vétheuil).

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Lot Essay

In 1879, Claude Monet and his family lived in a rented house in the town of Vétheuil. From his backyard, Monet could see the Seine river and the town of Lavacourt on the opposite bank—a view that he painted dozens of times, in different seasons of the year and hours of the day. The present work is one of the sunniest and warmest of the series. Monet recorded his observations of the yellow and pink sky; the houses and poplar trees lining the embankment; and the foliage of the bushes marooned in the center of the river. With a few quick, confident strokes, he also conveyed the brilliant reflections on the ever-changing surface of the river, blurring the distinction between liquid, solid and air. The present version of La Seine à Lavacourt is related to a slightly larger painting, Bords de la Seine (Wildenstein, no. 538), that now belongs to the collection of The Frick Pittsburgh.
Monet initially painted an exquisite series of the Seine at Lavacourt during the harsh winter, when the river was frozen and the landscape covered in snow. Yet the warmer months of spring and summer provided the artist with entirely new coloristic possibilities—and kinder conditions for painting en plein air. As Daniel Wildenstein observed: “The paintings from the first winter spent in Vétheuil have a melancholy quality that might have been sintered as much by the artist’s worries as by the season itself. But when spring burst into life, joy returned to Monet’s palette…He began a period of almost frenzied activity, his subject matter constantly changing” (op. cit., 1991, vol. I, p. 141). Monet maintained this urgent productivity throughout the glorious summer of 1879.
This phase of Monet’s career was marked by terrible financial precarity, in addition to remarkable formal experimentation. The artist struggled to sell his work and he began to regret his affiliation with the Impressionist painters. The painter Gustave Caillebotte eventually convinced a reluctant Monet to show some of his paintings at the fourth Impressionist exhibition, which opened in Paris in April 1879. Monet declined to attend the exhibition in person, so Caillebotte sent him news clippings featuring positive reviews of his work—while kindly omitting the negative responses. Art critic Albert Wolff succinctly articulated the most common criticism of Monet’s paintings: “M. Monet has sent 30 landscapes that look as if they were done in a single afternoon” (quoted in ibid., p. 142). Henry Harvard took less issue with the hastiness of Monet’s execution, than with his wide-ranging color palette and inventive brushwork; Harvard wrote in Le Siècle: “I confess humbly I do not see nature as [Monet and Pissarro] do, never having seen these skies fluffy with pink cotton, these opaque and moiré waters, this multi-colored foliage. Maybe they do exist. I do not know them” (quoted in The New Painting: Impressionism, 1874-1886, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1986, p. 286).
Still desperate to generate funds, Monet abstained from the Fifth Impressionist exhibition the following year. Instead, he submitted his work to the Salon, the annual exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. In Monet’s view, the Salon was a more respectable venue to display his work to the public—and more importantly, to appeal to potential buyers. Monetsubmitted two canvases to the Académie but only one was accepted: another Lavacourt riverscape, now in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art (Wildenstein, no. 578). At the Salon, Monet’s work found at least one admirer in the Marquis de Chennevieres, who wrote in La Gazette: “The light-toned, luminous quality [of Lavacourt] makes all the landscapes surrounding it in the same gallery seem dark” (quoted in ibid., p. 159). The present work similarly exemplifies Monet’s studies of luminescence through the color and texture of paint.

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